The Carbone Spicy Rigatoni stands as a testament to the art of Italian cooking, melding simplicity with explosive flavors. This dish, a hallmark of contemporary Italian cuisine, finds its roots in the bustling streets of Italy but has been popularized by the iconic Carbone restaurant in New York City. Its essence lies in the harmonious blend of a few select ingredients that together create a symphony of tastes.

Carbone Spicy Rigatoni

At its core, the Spicy Rigatoni features perfectly al dente rigatoni pasta, which serves as the canvas for the rich and vibrant sauce. The sauce, a mesmerizing concoction, owes its depth to high-quality tomatoes simmered to perfection. The heat element is introduced through carefully measured chili flakes, adding a layer of complexity that tickles the palate without overwhelming it. Meanwhile, the inclusion of garlic and onion builds a savory foundation that enhances the sauce’s robustness.

What sets this dish apart is the meticulous addition of cream, which introduces a velvety texture that coats the mouth, balancing the spice and acidity. Parmesan cheese, grated generously over the top, adds a final touch of umami, making the Carbone Spicy Rigatoni not just a meal but an experience—a celebration of flavors that pays homage to traditional Italian cooking while embracing modern culinary innovation.

Prep time15 minutes
Cook time25 minutes
CourseMain course
Servings4 persons

Kitchen Tools Needed

  • Large Pot – For boiling pasta.
  • Skillet or Sauté Pan – For preparing the sauce.
  • Wooden Spoon – For stirring pasta and sauce.
  • Strainer or Colander – For draining the cooked pasta.
  • Cheese Grater – For fresh Parmesan cheese.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons – For accurate ingredient measurements.
  • Knife – For chopping garlic and onion.
  • Cutting Board – For prep work.
Carbone Spicy Rigatoni

Ingredients for Carbone Spicy Rigatoni

  • 1 lb Rigatoni Pasta – The backbone of the dish.
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil – For sautéing.
  • 4 cloves Garlic, minced – Adds depth to the sauce.
  • 1/2 medium Onion, finely chopped – For sweetness and texture.
  • 1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes – Adjust to taste for spice level.
  • 28 oz can Crushed Tomatoes – The base of the sauce.
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream – Adds richness and tames the heat.
  • Salt, to taste – For seasoning.
  • Black Pepper, to taste – Adds a slight kick.
  • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated – For garnishing and added flavor.
  • Fresh Basil Leaves – For garnish and a burst of freshness.

How To Make Carbone Spicy Rigatoni?

Boil the Pasta

  • Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt to the boiling water.
  • Add the rigatoni pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions until al dente.
  • Once cooked, reserve 1 cup of pasta water for later use, then drain the pasta in a colander and set aside.

Prepare the Sauce

  • While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat.
  • Add the minced garlic and finely chopped onion to the pan. Sauté until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Stir in the red pepper flakes, cooking for an additional minute to release their flavor.
  • Pour in the crushed tomatoes. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Let the sauce simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it thickens slightly.

Combine Pasta and Sauce

  • Reduce the heat to low and stir the heavy cream into the tomato sauce until fully incorporated.
  • Add the cooked rigatoni to the sauce, tossing to coat the pasta evenly. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of the reserved pasta water to reach your desired consistency.
  • Allow the pasta to simmer in the sauce for a couple of minutes to ensure the flavors meld together.

Final Touches

  • Remove the skillet from heat. Sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese over the pasta and toss until the cheese is melted and the pasta is well coated.
  • If desired, adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes to taste.


  • Serve the Carbone Spicy Rigatoni hot, garnished with additional Parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves.
  • Enjoy a comforting and flavorful meal that embodies the essence of Italian cuisine.
Carbone Spicy Rigatoni

What To Serve With Carbone Spicy Rigatoni?

  • Garlic Bread: A classic choice, crispy garlic bread complements the rich, spicy flavors of the rigatoni, providing a delightful contrast in textures.
  • Caesar Salad: The crispness and creamy dressing of a Caesar salad offer a refreshing balance to the hearty pasta dish.
  • Grilled Vegetables: Seasonal vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, and eggplant, grilled to perfection, add a smoky flavor and healthy twist.
  • Roasted Chicken: Simple, herb-roasted chicken can provide a protein-rich side that pairs wonderfully without overpowering the pasta’s bold flavors.
  • Italian Meatballs: Serving Italian meatballs on the side or atop the rigatoni adds a traditional touch and extra layer of savory goodness.
  • Caprese Salad: Fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction create a light, flavorful side that echoes Italian culinary traditions.
  • Antipasto Platter: An assortment of olives, cured meats, cheeses, and marinated vegetables allows guests to indulge in a variety of Italian flavors.
  • Sautéed Spinach or Kale: Greens sautéed with garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes offer a simple, nutritious complement that echoes the spicy notes of the rigatoni.
  • Ricotta and Honey Crostini: For a lighter side, crostini topped with creamy ricotta and a drizzle of honey provide a sweet and savory contrast to the spicy pasta.
  • White Wine: A chilled glass of white wine, particularly a crisp Pinot Grigio or a Sauvignon Blanc, can cleanse the palate and enhance the overall dining experience.

How to store leftover Carbone Spicy Rigatoni?

  • Cool Before Storing: Allow the leftover Carbone Spicy Rigatoni to cool to room temperature to prevent condensation inside the storage container, which can make the pasta soggy.
  • Use Airtight Containers: Transfer the cooled rigatoni into airtight containers. This helps to retain moisture, keeping the pasta from drying out, and preserves the flavors.
  • Separate Portions: If possible, store portions individually. This makes reheating easier and prevents the entire batch from being exposed to air every time you take some out.
  • Label and Date: Label the containers with the date of storage. This helps keep track of how long the leftovers have been in the fridge or freezer and ensures you use them while they’re still good.
  • Refrigerate for Short-Term Storage: If you plan to eat the leftovers within 2-3 days, refrigerating them is sufficient. Keep them in the coldest part of the refrigerator to maintain freshness.
  • Freeze for Long-Term Storage: For longer storage, freeze the rigatoni. It can last up to 3 months in the freezer. Freezing in portions is also beneficial for easy thawing and reheating.
  • Thaw Properly: When ready to eat, if frozen, thaw the rigatoni in the refrigerator overnight rather than at room temperature to reduce the risk of bacterial growth.
  • Reheat Carefully: Reheat the rigatoni gently over the stove, adding a splash of water or additional sauce to prevent it from drying out. Alternatively, microwave it with a damp paper towel over the top to keep moisture in.
  • Avoid Repeated Reheating: Try to only reheat the amount of rigatoni you plan to eat in one sitting. Repeated reheating can degrade the texture and flavor of the pasta and sauce.
Carbone Spicy Rigatoni

Variations and Substitutions For Carbone Spicy Rigatoni

  • Whole Wheat or Gluten-Free Pasta: Substitute traditional rigatoni with whole wheat or gluten-free options to cater to dietary preferences or restrictions, adjusting the cooking time as needed.
  • Vegan Cream Sauce: For a dairy-free alternative, use coconut cream or cashew cream instead of heavy cream, adding nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor.
  • Protein Boost: Incorporate grilled chicken, shrimp, or Italian sausage into the dish for added protein. For a vegetarian protein source, consider adding pan-seared tofu or tempeh.
  • Spice Level Adjustment: Adjust the red pepper flakes according to your tolerance for heat. For an extra kick, add a diced jalapeño or a dash of cayenne pepper.
  • Cheese Varieties: While Parmesan is traditional, try using Pecorino Romano for a sharper taste or a blend of Italian cheeses for a more complex flavor profile.
  • Vegetable Add-Ins: Enhance the nutritional value and color of the dish by adding spinach, mushrooms, or sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce.
  • Low-Carb Option: Replace rigatoni with zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash for a low-carb variation, sautéing them lightly before tossing with the sauce.
  • Herb Infusions: Beyond basil, incorporate fresh oregano, thyme, or rosemary for added depth and fragrance to the sauce.
  • Creamy Tomato Variation: For a rosé sauce twist, increase the amount of cream for a creamier texture and a lighter, pinkish hue.
  • No Tomato Option: For a completely different approach, use a base of blended roasted red peppers and cream for a sweet and spicy sauce alternative.
  • Nutty Finish: Garnish with toasted pine nuts or walnuts for a crunchy texture and a nutty flavor that complements the creamy sauce.

Tips and Tricks

  • Salt the Pasta Water: Generously salting the pasta water enhances the flavor of the rigatoni, making it more than just a base but an integral part of the dish’s overall taste.
  • Al Dente Pasta: Cook the rigatoni until it’s al dente, or firm to the bite, as it will continue to cook slightly when mixed with the hot sauce, ensuring it doesn’t become too soft.
  • Reserve Pasta Water: Before draining, save a cup of the pasta cooking water. Its starchy quality can help adjust the sauce’s consistency, making it cling better to the pasta.
  • Low and Slow Sauce: Simmer the tomato sauce on a low heat for a longer period to develop a deeper, richer flavor. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.
  • Fresh Ingredients: Use fresh garlic, high-quality canned tomatoes, and fresh basil for the best flavor. The quality of your ingredients can significantly impact the dish’s taste.
  • Adjust Spice to Taste: Start with a smaller amount of red pepper flakes and adjust upwards for heat. Everyone’s spice tolerance varies, and it’s easier to add more than to try and balance out excessive heat.
  • Cream at Room Temperature: Adding cream that’s at room temperature rather than cold can prevent it from curdling when it hits the hot sauce.
  • Finish Cooking in Sauce: After draining, finish cooking the pasta in the sauce on the stove. This helps the pasta absorb the sauce, enhancing its flavor.
  • Rest Before Serving: Let the completed dish sit for a few minutes before serving. This brief rest period allows the flavors to meld further and the sauce to thicken slightly on the pasta.
  • Garnish Wisely: A sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan and torn basil leaves not only adds to the flavor but also gives the dish a vibrant, appealing look.
  • Experiment with Texture: For a variation in texture, consider adding a crunchy element like breadcrumbs toasted in olive oil and garlic, sprinkled on top just before serving.
  • Use Quality Olive Oil: A good quality olive oil can add a subtle fruitiness to the Carbone Spicy Rigatoni, enhancing the richness of the sauce without overpowering the other flavors.
Carbone Spicy Rigatoni

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Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ’s

Yes, you can prepare Carbone Spicy Rigatoni in advance. The sauce can be made up to two days ahead and stored in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, reheat the sauce, boil fresh pasta, combine, and serve. This can actually enhance the flavors as the sauce ingredients meld together over time.

If the sauce turns out too spicy, you can balance the heat by adding more cream or a spoonful of sugar to the sauce. Adding more grated cheese when serving can also help tame the spiciness, as dairy products counteract heat.

Yes, to make a vegan version of Carbone Spicy Rigatoni, substitute the cream with a dairy-free alternative like coconut cream or cashew cream, and use a vegan Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast for the cheesy flavor. Ensure your pasta is also vegan, as some brands may contain eggs.

Leftover Carbone Spicy Rigatoni can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, add a little water or vegetable broth to the pasta while warming it over low heat on the stove, stirring gently until it’s heated through. This helps prevent the pasta from drying out.

Absolutely! While rigatoni is traditional for its ability to hold sauce well, you can use other types of pasta like penne, fusilli, or even spaghetti. Just keep in mind the cooking time might vary, and choose pasta shapes that are good at trapping and holding onto the sauce.


Carbone Spicy Rigatoni is not just a dish; it’s a celebration of flavors that captivates the essence of Italian cuisine with a modern twist. Its perfectly balanced heat, coupled with the creaminess of the sauce, clings to the al dente rigatoni, making each bite a delightful experience. The simplicity of its ingredients belies the complexity of its taste, proving that true culinary excellence often lies in the mastery of basic elements.

This dish stands as a testament to the art of cooking, where tradition meets innovation, creating a meal that resonates with the soul. Whether served at a family dinner or a gathering of friends, Carbone Spicy Rigatoni promises a journey through the rich landscapes of Italian flavors, making it an unforgettable part of any culinary repertoire.

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